There is nothing better than homemade pizza! Especially a Neapolitan style pizza straight from the oven or if you’re lucky to have one, a pizza or wood-fired oven. Some people like a pizza to be thin and crispy; others like me prefer a thicker base, which is the Neopolitan pizza from Naples. The thinner based one is known as the Roma style pizza, and indeed from Rome.
I like a well made Roma pizza, but it is often disappointing due to the lack of toppings. The dough of this pizza only has to be made an hour beforehand, so it is perfect if you need to feed the crowds. In my opinion, there is no such thing as a quick dough. It is tasteless as it hasn’t had time to prove. The yeast or sourdough starter needs to do its work, which takes time. There is one exception, soda bread.
The history of the Neopolitan pizza
Did you know that bread originates from North Africa? To be precise from Mesopotamia, which started at Turkey and Lebanon, included parts of Iran, Iraq, Syria ending in Kuwait. This flatbread was called Naan. Over the years this bread spread to Asia and Sicily, Sardinia and Greece. It became popular in Italy too, and the locals gave it their twist by adding delicious toppings. The focaccia was mostly popular north of Rome, in Southern Italy the galette style bread, known as poor people food was popular street food. Initially, they used oil on this bread, but tomatoes became popular after the introduction by the Europeans.
Why is Neapolitan pizza so special?
Neapolitan pizza is not just a thick pizza base. It is rather special! You only are allowed to use this name if you use fresh yeast, highly refined Italian 0 or 00 wheat flour, salt and water. It has to be kneaded by hand or at a slow setting on your mixer. Using a rolling pin is out of the question!
It even has its own official certification. In 1984 the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana (VPN) was founded in Naples. Their goal is to certify pizzerias that use the proper artisan traditions of authentic Neapolitan pizza.
The second requirement is the cheese! The highly regarded Fior di latte is required to be one of the toppings of the Neapolitan pizza. This lovely soft Mozarella is originally from the Amalfi coast. The reason why this cheese is so special is that they use milk of the cows, which graze on the mountains. It is acclaimed to be much tastier than the regular buffalo mozzarella and has more protein, higher water content and has fewer calories.
The flower cheese from Naples
However, in Naples, they use the ‘flower’ cheese from a small village near to Naples and is extremely difficult to get hold of elsewhere in the world. The only problem is that due to the high water content, the Mozzarella can slide off the pizza. Hence, the dryer Mozzarella is the preferred one for Italian restaurants with a high turnover as it is much easier to handle.
The recipe for my pizza dough is a Neapolitan style pizza as I don’t use fresh yeast, but dry yeast and most my preferred toppings don’t include Mozarella. If you once have had Fior di latte, you don’t want anything else. Delicious to use in salads or on a bruschetta. A good deli should stock this Mozarella.
Let’s talk about pizzas
A good pizza starts with a good base, but the toppings are equally as important. Please don’t skimp on them. It’s the finishing touch! Make the passata yourself. It only takes 10 minutes. The rule for the other toppings is, don’t overload as the pizza will become soggy.
I have experimented with various toppings over the years. The traditional ones are always popular, but much to my surprise the star of the show at the moment is a pizza topped with Labneh, fennel sausage and spring onions. Even a winner with the carnivores! Pizza feasts at our house always include the spicy Italian Nduja, pronounced as ‘andouille’. The French and Spanish claim the recipe of this sausage came from their country. The only thing I like to add is that the Spanish love spicy food. Pizza with Labneh, fennel sausage and spring onions
The perfect passata
I like passata with a kick. This passata is easy to make. Don’t worry if you have leftovers as it freezes well and it is great as a pasta sauce too. Below I am sharing some of our favourite pizzas. Head over to the recipe.
Pizza with Labneh, fennel sausage and spring onion
- Only use a good quality fennel sausage. Available from your Italian deli.
- Take the fennel sausage out of the skin and make small meatballs. you will need 1 sausage for 2 pizzas.
- Cook them briefly in the oven on 185C or pop them into the wood-fired oven whilst it is warming up.
- Cut the spring onion in half and then make thin strips. Put it in cold water for at least 30 minutes. The spring onion will curl.
- Spread the Labneh over the pizza, add the meatballs and sprinkle the spring onions over the pizza
- Ready to cook the pizza
Pizza with Nudja, speck and soft goat cheese
- Spread the passata on the pizza.
- Tear off small pieces of the Nduja sausage and put it on the pizza. I like it spicy so I use on average 8 to 10 pieces on a medium pizza.
- Tear 2 large slices of Speck and add it to the pizza. ( Speck is available from an Italian deli. Instead, you can use Parma ham).
- Dot soft goat cheese over the pizza and pop it into the oven.
- Before serving grate Parmesan over the pizza.
- Note: you can use Mozarella for this pizza, but the goat cheese is much nicer with the spicy sausage.
For dessert – Pizza with Fig jam, Guanciale and soft goat cheese
- This is a very unusual pizza. Perfect as the last pizza on your feast.
- Warm up the fig jam so it is easier to spread. Use a good quality one from a deli.
- Spread the pizza with the fig jam
- Add a couple of slices of Guanciale. If they are large slices, tear them up. Guanciale is a type of bacon. It’s fattier and gives this pizza a nice kick.
- Dot the soft goat cheese over the pizza.
Pizza with BBQ chicken, red onions and goat cheese
- Start with making my Chipotle BBQ sauce or use your own.
- Heat up the oven to 185C.
- Smother the chicken with the BBQ and cook until ready. This should take about 15 to 20 minutes. I always make a batch of BBQ as it is delicious on a sandwich or salad too. Only use chicken thighs.
- Cut a red onion in half and slice it.
- Put olive oil in a frying pan add the onions and sprinkle of brown sugar. Fry on a low heat until soft.
- Slice the chicken in thin slices. You will need 1 chicken thigh for 2 pizzas.
- Spread the BBQ sauce on the pizza
- Add the sliced chicken and sprinkle with the onions and dot soft goat cheese over the pizza.
- Before serving grate Parmesan over the pizza.
Wondering where I get my pizza fix if I don’t have time to make them myself? Here are my favourite pizza haunts in Cambridge.
There is nothing better than a good pizza, especially fresh from the oven. This recipe is for the thicker pizza, also known as the Neapolitan style pizza. Using a good yeast is just as crucial as the flour. My preferred one is Fermipan.
Many people use semolina to put on the peal. I use flour instead as the semolina tends to burn in the wood-fired oven and leaves a burned flavour.
I like to prove my dough for at least two days so it can mature. Three days is even better. You can leave it for a day, but the flavour will not be as good.
I use strong white bread flour. The other day I accidentally added Country grain flour from Allison. Took the grains out and it was delicious. If you replace approx. 1/3 of the quantity by this flour and take the grains out. You will get a delightful earthier artisan flavour.
I use my Kitchen Aid to prepare the dough. If you make the double recipe then you need to make it in two batches.
- 590 grams white strong bread flour ( please see my note above about creating the perfect artisan pizza)
- 1.75 gram of yeast
- 380 grams look warm filter water
- 12 grams of sea salt
Tip: I can recommend buying a mini scale to have an accurate weight for yeast.
- Put the flour in the mixing bowl of a kitchen machine and add the yeast and water.
- Mix on the lowest speed until the dough just comes together.
- Let it rest for 30 minutes and cover with a tea towel or silver foil.
- Add the salt and mix on medium speed for 20 minutes.
- Dust the kitchen surface with flour and turn the dough on here.
- Oil a container and put the dough in there. Cover it with the lid and put it in the fridge for at least 24 hours, better is 48 or 72 hours. It makes it easier when you want to make the pizzas as the biggest job has been done.
- When you want to use the dough, you have to take it at least 2 hours before out of the fridge. However, if the weather is cool, I like to take it out 3 hours beforehand.
- Half an hour before cooking make cut the dough up in half and then again in half. Make nice balls and cover with a tea towel until your ready.
Make sure that the container for the dough is big enough as it will expand at least 4 times. I use a square one so it doesn’t take too much space up in the fridge and you can put things on top of it.
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